Does UIF Money Expire If Not Claimed?

By Tevait Feanle •  Updated: 01/23/24 •  6 min read
UIF

If you’re working in a full-time position in South Africa, you are also likely to be paying into the Unemployment Insurance Fund, or UIF. This is a government-funded short-term initiative to help people who become unemployed through no fault of their own, who lose a household breadwinner, or who will not be paid through their maternity leave time. While many of us are familiar with the UIF in broad strokes, the intricacies of claims and the money you’re paying over can be confusing. Today we’re clearing up some of the most common questions about your UIF monies and when you can claim them.

Does UIF Money Expire If Not Claimed?

Unclaimed UIF benefits technically do not expire. We mean this in the sense that your UIF benefits remain available for you to claim (in eligible circumstances) even if you have not done so immediately. You have up to 6 months (for most types of UIF claim) in order to lodge the claim, and they will usually backdate the payments you receive, too.

However, if there are valid reasons for not submitting the claim within this timeframe, such as hospitalization, death, or an inability to claim due to circumstances beyond your control, the claim may still be considered. It’s still better to claim within the 6-month limit if at all possible, however.

With that said, don’t expect to get a lump sum from the UIF at some point because you didn’t claim! Remember it is there to act as a buffer to help people who become unemployed through no fault of their own, or through issues like death and maternity leave. If you never need to use the UIF benefits you have accumulated, they will stay with the fund, not be paid over to you- just as with ‘normal’ insurance.

Additionally, your eligibility to claim from the UIF can change over your lifetime. Once you stop paying into the fund (if, say, you swap from full-time employment to a contract position), you also lose eligibility to claim from it. Even if you have paid over the years previous to that. Again, the accumulated money will stay with the fund.

What Happens If You Didn’t Claim UIF?

If you have an event which makes you eligible to claim UIF and you didn’t claim it immediately or within the 6-month timeframe, several things might happen:

If you know you are making a late claim, it’s smart to directly approach the UIF through their call center or email channels and discuss your specific situation with them for more tailored advice. In some circumstances, it might be smart to chat to a social worker or employment lawyer, too.

How Long Is The UIF Claim Valid For?

The validity period for a UIF claim depends on the specific type of benefit being claimed. 

Once a claim is submitted, you will receive UIF for the following periods:

Do remember that the specific period of time you can receive UIF is affected by your ‘credit days’. You need to have paid into the UIF fund for 4 consecutive years to claim these full benefit periods. Otherwise, you will only receive them for a partial time.

What Are The Penalties For Late UIF Registration?

As an employee, there are no penalties associated with the failure to pay over UIF money. Remember many working people in South Africa aren’t even eligible for UIF (think of contract, freelance, and part-time workers). However, you cannot claim from the fund if they haven’t received payments from you. 

In South Africa, the employer is responsible for withholding the UIF dues (1% from your salary and an additional 1% they must pay on your behalf and not deduct from you). It is frighteningly common for employees to find out their employer has been deducting UIF from them but not paying it over to the fund. Unfortunately, you will need to resolve this with the company before you can make your UIF claim- but be aware that their actions are very illegal, and you can take them to the CCMA or pursue legal action if they don’t correct the issue. It’s worth being on top of this matter before you need to claim, as it can drastically impact your claim processing time when you need it most.

Hopefully you now feel much more secure about when and how UIF can be claimed.

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